By Namekojirushi and Nao Watanuki. Released in Japan as “Ore ga Heroine o Tasukesugite Sekai ga Little Mokushiroku!?” by Hobby Japan. Released in North America digitally by J-Novel Club. Translated by Adam Lensenmayer.
To a certain extent, a lot of light novels in Japan have a certain level of knowing irony built into their very frame. You don’t have a genre with that many long-winded over-dramatic series titles and not know that your tongue is planted firmly in your cheek, though by now, a few years out, I suspect many of the imitators may have bypassed the irony in favor of “long titles sell”. But if you do understand, and your audience does as well, there’s a lot you can make fun of. Especially in the so-called “harem” genre, something which has been around in North America since the dawn of manga here (see Ranma 1/2 for only one example) and is even more rife in Japan. Jealous childhood friends, wishy-washy male leads, cripplingly shy yet adorable girls who always enthrall the male audience yet never actually win… we all know the type. It’s ripe for being made fun of.
Our hero is a young man who only wishes to live a normal life. Sadly, Rekka is told by his father on his 16th birthday that he’s inheriting the birthright of being the “final hero” – i.e., when a crisis is happening somewhere and a hero is needed but has not actually materialized, died, or failed, Rekka will be called to action to get the girl, kill the baddies, and save the entire planet. The keywords here being “get the girl”. Shortly after this, a young girl from the future, R, pops up to tell Rekka that he made too many girls fall in love with him doing this, and his inability to settle down and pick one has led to a future apocalypse. R is here to help prevent this. And right after this, the hero stuff keeps pouring in. His childhood friend is secretly a mage, an alien princess wants to marry him, and a shy sorcerer needs hims help to defeat the Demon Overlord. The conceit is that this all happens at the same time.
I must admit, my expectations were somewhat low for this release. The dire but similar “My Little Sister Can Read Kanji” release by J-Novel was so bad I wasn’t even able to finish (or review) it. But it looked lighthearted at least, and I was in the mood for something that wasn’t just dour overpowered male leads staring at the charred remains of all they once loved. And luckily, this ended up being a quite readable treat. It’s not great art, and overstays its welcome (something that is worrying given how long the series is in Japan). But it knows what it’s mocking and does it very well. Some of the jokes actually made me laugh out loud, a rarity for light novels. Its one big drawback is that it peaks too soon. Rekka and Harissa battling the Demon Overlord, complete with “you fools! This isn’t even my final form!” is the absolute highlight of the entire book, and the rest couldn’t dream of topping it.
The basic premise is actually quite clever: Rakka would normally be taking care of these things one by one, and likely not doing a great job. But with them all happening at once, he’s able to use resources from one heroine route to fix another. And they aren’t necessarily easy fixes, either – I knew the moment that he left Harissa right after defeating the Demon Overlord handily that it wouldn’t be that simple, and sure enough she’s soon on the chopping block to be executed. As for Rekka himself, he’s amusingly dense, but he’s not an incompetent clumsy idiot like a lot of harem heroes – you actually get why these girls fall for him. The heroines themselves are all obvious types, designed to win over whichever pleases the reader best, and none are too annoying. Best of all is R, who is invisible to all but Rekka and is thus able to float around him at all times making dry, sarcastic remarks about his incompetence. “I now understand the difficulty of my mission in my heart and not just in my head” was wonderful. (I also hope that she does not become part of the harem in future books.)
Overall, I’m pleasantly surprised at what a light, breezy read this was. Don’t read it if you can’t tolerate harems, of course. And like many light novels, I suspect it’s something I’d find far more aggravating as an anime or manga with more visual fanservice. But if you want something funny and cheeky, this is a good series to get.